Monday, August 22, 2011

Man conquers mountain, but not without a price

As the subject matter of my blog would indicate, I consider myself to be in relatively good shape.

I go for runs pretty regularly, I weight lift and I can rip off a long bike ride without too much trouble. I won't be setting any marathon records in the near future, but I also won't be gasping for air after walking up a flight of stairs.

With being in shape comes the expectation that you can perform most physical activities with ease, even if it's an activity that your body isn't used to. The activity might feel taxing at first, but if you're in good enough shape, your body should be able to adapt to it as you go.

As I would come to find out the other day after doing a day hike near Seattle with my step brother Derek, that's not quite the case for me.

One of the goals I had while visiting Derek in the Pacific Northwest last week was to do a hiking trip of some sort. He's a pretty avid hiker and I figured the area was probably brimming with good trail options in the surrounding mountain ranges.

Derek suggested McClellan Butte, a 4.6-mile hike up roughly 3,300 feet of elevation. According to him, it was a popular trail in the area that featured a relatively easy climb and some pretty impressive views at the summit (the first photo is an actual picture of the mountain, it certainly doesn't LOOK easy).

One thing to know about my agreement to do this hike: I haven't done any serious hiking in years. The last trip I did was a week-long excursion in the Grand Canyon more than three years ago, and that had much more gradual elevation changes for most of the trek. I've hiked most of the parks in the Mankato area, but mountain ranges aren't exactly common in southern Minnesota.

Despite knowing all of this, I reasoned that I was in good enough shape to keep up with Derek on the hike. Besides, nobody wants to look like a wimp in front of their brother. So instead of asking him to slow down and rest more frequently, I pressed on and tried to zone out whatever pain might have been creeping up my legs.

About midway through the hike to the summit, my legs felt limber and my cardiovascular system seemed like it had adjusted to the activity. I figured that meant I would get through the hike with no issues and wouldn't have any residual effects in the days that followed.

As it turns out, I was half-right.

As the photo on the right would indicate, I did indeed make it to the summit of McClellan Butte. And aside from a pretty embarrassing fall in a snow bank along the trail, I handled the hike about as well as a novice hiker can be expected to handle it.

However, when I tried to get out of bed the next morning, it became obvious that the hike had written a check my body was having trouble cashing. My legs felt stiff, my knees were sore and my hips ached. It hurt to go up and down stairs and any attempts to stretch were met with angry shrieks from my leg muscles telling me something along the lines of "I told you this was a bad idea, you idiot!"

Matter of fact, my lower body still feels that way two days later. I've gone on a couple of decent bike rides since the hike, so it's not as bad as the first few days after a marathon (the time period I like to refer to as a "cardio vacation"). But for a guy who thought he was in pretty decent shape, it's a pretty surprising revelation.

Lesson learned: Take it slow with new activities. The hike was an absolute blast and one of the highlights of my trip, but I think my legs would've appreciated another rest stop or two along the way.

1 comment:

  1. What an awesome view. Good point, different activites use different muscles!